...where distraction is the main attraction.

Friday, July 10, 2015

WTF Is This? Ardbeg Perpetuum.

BOOM!  Almost-Relevant whisky.  Yes, this is still Diving for Pearls.  For those who have been reading my rambling for years know much of this Ardbeg intro, but for those who are newish...

As recently as three years ago, Ardbeg was one of my Top Five favorite distilleries.  They could do no wrong with their regular range of Ten, Uigeadail, and Corryvreckan.  I didn't find their Ardbeg Day events annoying and I eagerly awaited their annual special releases.  But then we each went or separate ways.  To adapt to demand and shortages or fiscal demands, Ardbeg changed the recipes of Oogy and Corry.  The whiskies got younger, the oak/wine got louder, and the balance couldn't hold.  What once was the best peated whisky on the market became just pretty good.  Meanwhile, I grew up.  The aggressive marketing began to read as circus barker gibberish and their special releases provided diminishing returns.  For instance:
Ardbeg Alligator - Woo hoo!
Ardbeg Day - Almost as good as Oogy!
Ardbeg Galileo - Someone screwed up, right?
Ardbeg Ardbog - Not bad, but $110?
Ardbeg Auriverdes - Who cares?
Ardbeg Perpetuum - No.

Usually when these special releases come out, LVMH's marketing team buries some information about the actual whisky contents within their storytelling.  But this year, they and Bill Lumsden are playing especially coy about Perpetuum's content.  They say it is “inspired by the main styles, ideas and quirks of fate which have influenced Ardbeg recipes over time. It combines different styles, different flavours, different dreams and different trials, all skilfully married together in a melange of the very best Ardbeg has to offer.”

So it's mystery meat.  $110 mystery meat.  Thanks to the Orange County Scotch Club, I was able to try the stuff and then I pirated a sample.

Distillery: Ardbeg
Owner: LVMH
Age: NAS
Maturation: one would assume so
Region: Islay
Alcohol by Volume: 47.4%
Release Year: 2015
Limited Bottling: 72,000

Tasting Notes:
Color - Pee.  Which usually means urine for a good time.

Nose - More burnt and mossy than the Ten.  Then cinnamon rolls, if fact there's a lot of cinnamon (cassia) in here.  New tires, ocean / seashells, and Laphroaig-y band-aids.  Eggy sulfur hits first, later it becomes struck match sulfur and singed tennis ball fuzz.  With 15-20 minutes of air, a new oak note develops, then totally takes over by the 25 minute mark.

Palate - Burnt and bitter (but good bitter).  Black licorice, mint, sweet basil, and a little bit of white sugar.  Between the burnt note and something meaty, it reminds me of Balcones Brimstone at times (though better).  Moments of hazelnuts and nutty sherry.  A curiously thin and watery texture.

Finish - Charred ribs, sugar and cinnamon, peat, rubber, and cheap cigar smoke.

1.  In Ardbeg's own description they're admitting this is a garbage pail whisky.  And that's not necessarily a bad thing.  There are some very good garbage pail whiskies (see the late Longrow CV).  But this is what they went with for the distillery's 200th anniversary?  Really, Ardbeg?  Why don't you show a little pride and release a cask strength version of the Ten?  You know, "This is us now, two centuries in, at full power. Deal with it."  It doesn't even have to be ten years old.  Just make it all bourbon cask, bottle it at 60%abv, and even bitter old Diving for Pearls would buy a bottle.
2. On the nose, I could do without the eggy sulfur, but I didn't mind the matches.  The new oak note was out of whack with the rest.  The palate was good and the finish was actually better.  But the very thin mouthfeel was strange.  That was the only thing that stood out when I first tried it at the club event two weeks ago.  I found that thinness again this time.  It was so watery that I didn't feel the need to add more.
3. As decent as the good parts are, overall the whisky is nothing that Ledaig can't do better, regularly.
4. In fact, it's nothing that Ardbeg's own regular range doesn't do better, regularly.

And again, #4 is the main problem.  The perpetual problem, if you will.  Each year the special release comes out, and each year it fails to top their regular cheaper stuff.   Exclusivity -- which is what I assume Ardbeg Day geeks are paying for -- does not equal quality.  So, if you're shilling out $100-$130 in order to hoard, flip, or brag about young brown liquid, then that's your financial decision (though you may want to read this).  But if you're thinking about buying Perpetuum to drink, then you can find much better whisky for less money, and some of those better bottles will still say Ardbeg on the front.

Availability - Unsurprisingly still available at many specialty retailers
Pricing - $100-$130, though much more on the secondary market
Rating - 81